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News - VFACTS - Sales 2006 - April

April VFACTS: Oz car market shrinks by 10 per cent

Ominous: Booming 300C sales have overshadowed Statesman and Fairlane.

High fuel prices see Aussie six-cylinder car sales fall a huge 27 per cent in April

4 May 2006

A NEW car buyer backlash is building over record petrol prices.

Figures released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) yesterday show that sales last month were down 10.2 per cent on the record for the month set a year ago.

Last month’s result was also a blow for local car-makers, with demand for Australian-made six-cylinder vehicle sales down by 27 per cent.

The total market is down in year-to-date terms by 10,724 vehicles, or 3.4 per cent behind the same period last year.

The prospect of further petrol price rises and continuing uncertainty over interest rates is widely tipped to cool sales for the rest of the year, particularly given another expected rise in bank rates in the short term.

The Reserve Bank last week lifted the official interest rate to 5.75 per cent, its highest level since February 2001.

As a direct result of higher fuel prices across the country, the light and small car segments continue to grow, while sports utility vehicles are falling out of favour.

However, the FCAI’s chief executive said the softening April figures included some "one-off factors".

Easter fell in April instead of March, which meant there were three fewer selling days.

"It should also be noted that the automotive market has actually set sales records in two out of four months this year – so the trend is far from consistent," he said.

"Nevertheless, you could conclude that the widespread publicity generated by rising fuel prices may have discouraged some potential new vehicle buyers." The April results clearly show a continuation of the recent trend towards smaller vehicles.

Against the general downturn in the passenger vehicle market, sales of the light car segment were up 17.1 per cent last month and are now at 21.1 per cent in year-to-date terms.

Large and sportscar sales continue to show the biggest falls.

Overall large cars are down 20.2 per cent this year, while sportscar sales are down 9.8 per cent.

Sport utilities are down 10.1 per cent year-to-date, but relatively economical people-movers were up 5.2 per cent, due in part by new model offerings.

The drop in SUVs was felt across all segments - compact, medium, large and luxury with large SUVs taking the biggest hit.

Although light truck sales fell by 11.2 per cent last month, the light truck market in year-to-date terms is up 1.9 per cent on the record set in 2005.

"The automotive industry is trying to continue the momentum generated by four successive years of record sales growth," Mr Sturrock said.

"It’s probably unreasonable to expect that the market can keep growing unabated and indeed the chamber has forecast an annual total down slightly on last year." The FCAI’s sales forecast for 2006 is 980,000, compared to a record of 988,269 set last year.

The top 10 in year-to-date terms remain constant.

Toyota remains in top spot with 63,917 sales overall (a 21.1 per cent market share), followed by Holden with 48,780 sales, Ford 37,351 on Mazda 21,569.

Despite its woes with the 380, Mitsubishi sits in sixth place overall with sales of 16,820, ahead of Hyundai (which outsold Mitsubishi in April), Nissan, Honda, Subaru and Kia in tenth place.

The rise in fuel prices has also seen a growth in private buyers switching to alternative fuels.

Diesel sales are up 69.4 per cent this year, hybrids are up 11.6 per cent and LPG sales are 141.7 per cent higher than last year, all admittedly off a low base.

In year-to-date terms 2205 buyers have opted for diesel, 222 have chosen hybrids and 87 private buyers have gone for LPG.

However, petrol remains by far the most popular fuel but demand has softened 5.6 per cent in year-to-date terms among 103,806 private passenger car buyers.

Of the hybrids, Toyota Prius sales are up 21.1 per cent this year with 470 sold in year-to-date terms.

Among the individual winners last month was Chrysler with 131 sales of the 300C, which was the top-seller in the upper large car under $100,000 segment.

The 300C has 34 per cent lion’s share of the upper large segment (under $100,000), outperforming the Holden Statesman and Ford Fairlane.

On the back of the 300C’s success, Chrysler year-to-date sales are up 62 per cent over 2005.

Kia’s Carnival dominates the large people-mover segment, with 366 sold last month and a 38.8 per cent overall share this year of the MPV segment under $55,000.

The Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Holden Astra and Ford Focus continue their domination of the small car segment. Toyota sold 2898 Corollas last month and has a 20.4 per cent small car market share.

The Altona-based car-maker also dominates the light car class. Its Yaris commanded 2092 sales last month - well ahead of nearest rivals, the Hyundai Getz and Holden Barina with 1564 and 1070 sales respectively.

Despite a general softening in the segment, the Holden Commodore continues its domination for large cars under $80,000. Last month it sold 3796 Commodores, ahead of 2563 Falcons and 1035 Mitsubishi 380s.

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